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asking the ghost to dance | by suttonhoo
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asking the ghost to dance

This is my M’bira. It was a Valentine’s Day gift a long long time ago, a collaboration between my ex-, who knew I wanted one, and our buddy TD4, who played and taught and shared African music (much in Boulder, CO, frequently elsewhere) and knew how to get one.


This one was made by T.W. Chigamba of Zimbabwe, which makes it a big deal.


Tom taught me to play. As a teacher he was as kind and as gentle and as quietly, wisely prodding as he was as a friend. Like sunshine coaxes a bud to bloom, that’s how his friendship worked.


The day after his memorial service I ran into his partner over breakfast at Lucile’s. We hugged some, we cried. I had only met her the day before: the time that they had been together I’d been too busy and far away to visit their home. Recovering from my divorce; too broken up with memories.


She told me of a voicemail that I had left for Tom and of course her questions: “Who’s this D--?” And Tom, she told me, trying to tell her who I was, and maybe answering a question that she didn’t tell me she asked, summed it up as: “We loved the music together.”


My M’bira has sat quiet for some time now. I’ve tried, several times, since losing my teacher, to play, and every time it brings me to tears.


I know I need to take lessons again. The ghost needs to dance.


Today I took it down from the shelf where it sits mostly now, dusty and quiet. The light was nice in the kitchen (although cold. winter light.) and I was shooting odd things -- a seed pod that I’ll post soon, a teapot. I started to shoot the instrument. The light on the keys and the wood and the Fanta bottle caps that buzz when it sings.


And yeah, of course, I started to cry.


Because it seems it'll have its music from me, somehow.


p.s. Tom brought the instrument by shortly before the day we got the pu-erh.

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Taken on February 16, 2008